Between Possibility and Validity in Defining Families

  • KUBOTA Hiroyuki
    Research and Investigation Center of Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21<sup>st</sup> Century Research Institute

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Other Title
  • 家族定義の可能性と妥当性
  • 家族定義の可能性と妥当性--非家族研究の系譜を手がかりに
  • カゾク テイギ ノ カノウセイ ト ダトウセイ ヒカゾク ケンキュウ ノ ケイフ オ テガカリ ニ
  • 非家族研究の系譜を手がかりに
  • Non-family Studies in Japanese Family Studies

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Within recent family sociology in Japan, it has been taken for granted that the family cannot and should not be defined by researchers, partly because of the negative effect of including various lifestyles. However, avoiding family definition can be harmful or even destructive, unless there is a clear-cut explanation of what exactly is meant by saying “family cannot and should not be defined”. This paper, then, will argue that it is inevitable and even essential for every single piece of scientific research on families to define a concept of the family in some way, and, conversely, to define a concept of “non-family”, according to the best interest of each research project. In this paper, we examine three famous studies in the history of family sociology in Japan which focused on the concept of “non-family”: one by Teizō TODA ([1973] 1970), another by Kiyomi MORIOKA ([1981] 1987), and a third by Yoshitaka IKEOKA et al. (1999). By examining this tradition of “non-family” studies, the inevitability and necessity of definition can best be illustrated, as the borderline which is drawn between the concepts of family and of non-family. Firstly, we scrutinize Masahiro YAMADA (1986; 1992) and IKEOKA et al. (1999), dealing with the subjective family definitions of the parties involved, because these approaches sometimes seem to put overmuch emphasis not on the researchers’ definition but on the parties’ subjective image and discourse on family. Secondly, contentions over the constructionist approach follow, which have arisen within the Sociology of Social Problems under the name of Ontological Gerrymandering. Finally, we examine TODA ([1973] 1970) and MORIOKA ([1981] 1987), which explicitly define the concepts of family and non-family. In conclusion, it can be argued that it is inevitable and even essential to define concepts of the family and “non-family”, according to the best interests of each research project. “Family” should be re-defined and up-dated in order to embrace the diverse lifestyles within and without those of traditional families.



    SOSHIOROJI 55 (1), 3-19,136, 2010


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